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A PRIEST in the only true sense is a mediator between God and fallen creatures, to restore and establish harmony on a legal basis. I inquire then, Is not Jesus the Priest to the Church and would not this imply that he is the Church's Mediator, to restore and establish harmony on a legal basis?"
We answer, No. After we have become members of the Church we are New Creatures, to whom old things have passed away and all things have become new and against whom there is no condemnation. The New Creatures are not to be restored. It is not true that we were New Creatures at first and fell from that condition and are to be restored to it. We fell as human creatures, and as such we are never to be "restored to harmony with God on a legal basis." Such restitution God has provided for the world during the Millennium, but not for the Church. As New Creatures we are members of the Priest who is to thus restore the world—our Lord is the Head and we are his "members." The picture of the future is that of Melchisedec's—a priest upon his throne.
When we read, "Consider Jesus, the High Priest of our profession," the meaning is, the Chief Priest of our kind or order of priests. We are to consider him as our example, that, as his members, we may present our sacrifices as he, our Forerunner, presented him. As a priest in receiving us as members of his own Body, the Church, his attitude toward us would necessarily be as different as is the relationship into which we are received. Jesus received the Apostles on account of their faith and consecration before he died for their sins and before he "appeared in the presence of God for us" to make atonement for their sins and ours and to secure for them and for us the evidence of reconciliation to the Father—the holy Spirit begetting. He has appeared for all of the same class—not as Mediator, but as an Advocate applying his blood on our behalf because of our faith and obedience.
"I notice that you make a clear distinction between the Church and the world in the matter of sin-atonement—proving (I believe Scripturally), that our Lord has thus far made atonement to Justice only on behalf of consecrated believers, and that atonement will not be made for the sins of the world until the end of this Gospel Age, when the great Priest will present the merit of his ransom sacrifice on behalf of the world, as it is now appropriated to the Church: only that now it is granted to the Church as a basis for sacrifice unto death of the flesh and all of its earthly rights, whereas the appropriation of the future to the world will be unto life and actual restitution.
"I notice also your presentation that the drawing of the world will be during the Millennial Age, and by the great [R4554 : page 51] Messiah under the New Covenant arrangements and that the calling of believers during this Gospel Age is not by the Son but by the Father, and not under the New Covenant, but under the Abrahamic Covenant. I agree that the Scriptures you cite uphold your position.
"I note also your claim that those drawn by the Father during the Gospel Age are of a different character from the world in general and that this accounts for God's special dealing with them—their justification by faith and the offer to them of a share in the sacrifice of Messiah and a share in the glories of his Millennial Kingdom. But here I am somewhat perplexed and hence the following question.
"But how can we harmonize this presentation with the statement of the Apostle? After speaking of the world in general he seems to declare that we who have received Christ were once in the same ungodly condition. His words are, 'Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the Prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.' (Eph. 2:2,3.) If the world needs a Mediator why not also the Church?"
It is quite true that all of Adam's children shared in his fall and became "by nature children of wrath." Yet there is a difference amongst these "children of wrath." While they are all imperfect and unable to commend themselves to God by good works, so as to merit eternal life and Divine favor, nevertheless some of them have good hearts, good intentions, and secretly if not openly long for righteousness and fellowship Divine. As, for instance, St. Paul describes his condition as a Jew, and presumably the condition of other Jews, when he says: "With the mind I myself serve the Law of God....For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh), dwelleth no good thing." (Rom. 7:25,18.) His mind assented that the Divine requirement is "just and holy and good," and he desired to live up to that glorious standard and to be worthy of eternal life. But his flesh inherited imperfections, which hindered him from fulfilling the desires of his mind and keeping the Divine Law. Hence his cry, "O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from this dead body?" He recognized his flesh as imperfect and under the Divine Law sentenced to death; but his mind was perfect, was loyal to God. If he could only get rid of the imperfect body and have a new body, then indeed he could and would live up to the Divine standard and gain eternal life according to the Law. Oh, who would deliver him?
Then he thanks God that deliverance from the sin-condemned body has been provided through Jesus Christ our Lord. This is a faithful illustration of all those who are now accepted by the Lord under this Gospel call as antitypical priests and Levites. We were all "children of wrath, even as others," outwardly, but having turned from sin, Christ was revealed to our eye of faith as our Redeemer and we accepted him and his cross by faith and were accepted by the Father. We were first of all drawn, influenced, by a [R4554 : page 52] desire for God and for his righteousness and a distaste for sin. In God's providence we were next directed to Jesus as the world's Redeemer and informed that, although the time for the world's salvation is not yet, we are in the time of the gathering of the elect Church as "his members," his Bride, and that if we desire forgiveness of sins and reconciliation towards God we should accept his terms and present our bodies living sacrifices, and receive the begetting of his Spirit, then be educated in the School of Christ and tested as to our loyalty to righteousness and afterward be received to glory and joint-heirship in the great Kingdom of Messiah, through which blessing, salvation, restitution is coming to all mankind.
The Scriptures do not teach that all of the "called" class were born in this condition of preferring righteousness to sin, born "feeling after God;" but they do intimate that not until we reach that position, whether old or young, were we ready properly to receive the gift of God—the forgiveness of sins and acceptance to probationary membership in the Body of Christ. These need no Mediatorial Kingdom to subdue them and gradually during a thousand years bring them to perfection and readiness to be introduced to the Father. The Father has made for them a special, peculiar arrangement of faith-justification as instead of actual-justification or restitution. As soon as they accept by faith the fact of their redemption and then sacrifice the redeemed rights to earthly life, that soon they are acceptable to God and acknowledged as his children by the holy Spirit which he imparts.
Before their justification on the basis of their sacrifice of earthly nature, they had the desire for righteousness pleasing to God, and when they accepted his arrangements through the merit of Christ they were instantly begotten as sons and needed no mediation, either before or after, but merely that their Redeemer, Elder Brother, Bridegroom in Glory, should act for them as their Advocate. "We have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous," who appears for us and makes good out of his own merit for all of our unintentional imperfections and short-comings.—I John 2:1.
"Abraham was justified by faith without a mediator, as you have pointed out. We, the Church, also, as you point out, are justified by faith and not by a covenant nor by a mediator. Yet evidently there is some difference, because Abraham had not the privileges which we enjoy. Kindly explain the difference between his justification and ours."
We answer that Abraham was justified by his faith to fellowship with God, and his faith would have justified him to complete restitution privileges, had he lived, under the privileges of the Millennium—or to faith-restitution with sacrificing privileges had he lived after instead of before our Lord died for our sins and provided justification to life for believers. The death of Christ is the basis of all reconciliation to God by actual restitution during the Millennium or by faith-restitution for sacrificing now. Faith so justified Abraham and the entire class of ancient worthies that, as soon as the antitypical Atonement Day shall have ended and the Millennial morning of blessing shall be ushered in under the New Covenant, those Ancient Worthies will come forth from the tomb perfect—justified—restored fully, right and in harmony with God. "They had this testimony, that they pleased God"—they were justified to perfect human conditions by their faith in the promises, but the basis of those promises was the sacrifice of Christ (Head and Body); hence they could not get the blessing promised to them until the completion of the sufferings of Christ, until the end of this Gospel Age, the close of this antitypical Day of Atonement. This is the Apostle's testimony, "God having provided some better thing for us (as members of the great Priest, Mediator and King) that they without us should not be made perfect."—Heb. 11:40.
We are favored in that we live since the ransom-sacrifice was laid down at Calvary, and since its merit was applied at Pentecost on behalf of the household of faith. On this account our justification by faith enables us, by God's grace, not only to have earthly, restitution rights reckoned to us, but also furnishes us the opportunity of sacrificing those earthly rights and thereby of participating in the sufferings of Christ and of the glories which shall follow.—I Pet. 1:5-11.
"I assent to the reasonableness of your position that there is a difference between the standing of the Church and the world in the sight of God—that we 'were children of wrath,' but, by God's grace, are such no longer, and that the world are still 'children of wrath.' I assent that 'the whole world lieth in the Wicked one' and that this is proof positive that they have not been 'reconciled to God,' and that the Redeemer has not applied his merit on their behalf. I assent that, only we who have escaped the condemnation that is still in the world are of the class for whom the great High Priest has already made propitiation—satisfaction. I agree that the satisfaction for the sins of the world and the inauguration of the New Covenant between God and Israel at the hands of the Mediator, the glorified Christ of many members, will come to pass after this sacrificing age shall have closed. I agree, also, that there was a difference between believers and unbelievers, even before the grace of God was applied to the former: that is to say, I agree that God's grace is applied to no one who is in a rebellious attitude of heart, but only to those who, either by birth or through trials and disciplines have come to the condition of contrition for sin and a desire for reconciliation to God.
"But here comes my question: I can see how such, desiring in their hearts reconciliation and affiliation would need no mediator; and I can see how the world of mankind in the Millennial Age will nearly all need a mediator's interference—chastisements and rewards, to bring them up to restitution. But will there not be some of mankind who will then at heart desire righteousness and fellowship with God, even as we now do? In other words, Does God during this Gospel Age find and draw and accept by the holy Spirit every individual of Adam's race desirous of turning from sin and having fellowship with God? Will there be some of this class living at the Second Advent or, like the Ancient Worthies, awakened from the dead? And if there will be some of this class, will Christ act as a Mediator for them, as well as for the rebellious? Or will Messiah be a Mediator [R4555 : page 52] for some and an Advocate for others, or how will it be?"
We reply: Your difficulty is that you think of a mediator as acting between God and the sinners as individuals. This is the wrong thought. Lay firm hold of the Scriptural proposition that a mediator has to do only with a covenant and that the Covenant deals with a nation or people and not with its individuals. God will not make New Covenants with each member of Adam's race and have Messiah mediate thousands of millions of covenants. The correct thought is very different. When the great High Priest shall have finished his offerings, first for his own members and house, and then for all the people, he will present the merit of his sacrifice on the world's behalf, redeeming the world (according to the original intention), as more than eighteen centuries ago he redeemed or bought the Church, the household of faith.
He will then be the owner of the world and prepared to deal with them and to effect restitution for as many of them as will obey him. (Acts 3:23.) As a means to this end, he will mediate for Israel the New Covenant, as a substitute for their old one, restoring that nation to the place of honor as the favored nation, Abraham's natural seed, through whom the blessings of redemption will extend to all nations. That New Covenant will not be made with rebellious sinners, however. God's Covenant will be with the Mediator for Israel, guaranteeing forgiveness and reconciliation to all of Abraham's natural seed who will exercise the faith and the obedience of Abraham. The work of the Mediator with Israel (and the world of mankind, who to be blest must become Israelites indeed) during the Millennium, will be their instruction, enlightenment and uplifting out of sin and death, out of ignorance and superstition, out of depravity and unbelief up to human perfection; so that, at the end of the [R4555 : page 53] Millennium, all of Abraham's seed, all of his faith and obedience, will have reached human perfection and be ready for the Mediator to deliver them over to the Father, that God may be all in all—the unwilling and rebellious, after due trial, being cut off during the Millennium in the Second Death.
In God's providence the Ancient Worthies already have demonstrated their loyalty to God and their worthiness to come forth unto a "better resurrection"—a resurrection to human perfection. This will be under the New Covenant arrangements and under the Mediator of that New Covenant. They will receive their blessing under it the same as the remainder of the world. The whole world can be regenerated only by the Second Adam. They can receive eternal life in no other way. With some this regeneration will result in a gradual work of restitution to perfection; but in the Ancient Worthies, because of previous developments in faith and obedience it will mean an instantaneous restitution. They, like the remainder of the world, receiving restitution life through the merit of Christ's death, are Scripturally styled the children of Christ and he their Father or Life-Giver. "He shall be called the Everlasting Father." (Isa. 9:6.) Thus we read, "Instead of thy fathers (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and all the prophets) shall be thy children, whom thou mayest make princes in all the earth."—Psa. 45:16.
Here, then, we see the order of the future, dating from the end of this Age and the completion of the Mediator Priest and King. Our Lord and his Church, the antitypical Isaac and his Bride, the antitypical Melchisedec, Priest upon his Throne, will inaugurate his reign of righteousness in the great time of trouble and shaking with which this Age will terminate. The Ancient Worthies, as the firstborn of his children, receiving the perfection of restitution and its privileges, will be made "princes in all the earth." To them and under their control will rally, first of all, the house of Israel and Judah, as they begin to see taking shape the earthly Kingdom for which they have so long waited. To these will gradually come restitution privileges—health and prosperity. The world, still weak and awe-struck, as the result of the time of trouble, will begin to take notice to Israel's rising again to national life, and will notice the blessings bestowed upon them. "Many people shall say, Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob: and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion (the spiritual Kingdom) shall go forth the Law, and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem (the earthly Kingdom in the control of the 'princes')."—Isa. 2:3.
The Millennial blessings will be conferred only upon the willing and obedient, but the knowledge of righteousness, of Truth, will fill the whole earth. Both Jews and Gentiles will be required to approach the faith and obedience of Abraham and ultimately become "Israelites indeed in whom is no guile." Only such as shall be thus obedient will receive the full blessing of that time and attain perfection. All others will be cut off in the Second Death. The Law of the New Covenant will be the same perfect one that was the basis of the Mosaic Covenant. The difference will be that the Priest will be of a higher order—a kingly priest after the order of Melchizedec. He will have as a basis for forgiveness of sins and restitution the merit of his "better sacrifices" of this Gospel Age—this antitypical Day of Atonement.
As the ancient worthies will attain perfection immediately under the New Covenant and be granted a share in the Kingdom, similarly all, in proportion as they shall understand and come into accord with the Kingdom conditions, may proportionately to their sincerity and zeal make progress and the more quickly reach perfection. Perfected, they will be kings in the sense that Adam was a king endued with the powers of perfect manhood over beasts, fowl, fish, etc. (Psa. 8:5-8.) And these earthly kings shall become more or less associated with the "princes" in the dominion of earth—they shall bring their honor and glory into the New Jerusalem.—Rev. 21:24,26.
"I have noted your reference to the communion cup which our Lord tendered to his disciples, saying, 'Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the New Testament (Covenant) shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say unto you that I will not drink henceforth of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's Kingdom.'—Matt. 26:27-29.
"I note that you consider that our Lord referred to this same cup in Matt. 20:22, when he answered James and John that their only hope of sitting with him in his throne lay in their partaking of his cup and sharing in his baptism—into death. I wish to inquire whether or not this should be considered the uniform interpretation of the 'cup' in the Scriptures. In some places it had seemed to me to refer to joy, pleasure, rather than to suffering. For instance, in Psalms 23:5 we read, 'My cup runneth over.' And again, in Psalm 116:13, 'I will take the cup of salvation.' Neither of these, it seems to me, apply to the cup of Christ's sufferings. Do they?"
Yes, we reply. The cup in each of these instances is the same. Psalm 23 is a prophetic one which represents Christ and the Church—their experiences throughout this Gospel Age. Surely our Lord's cup of suffering overflowed. And surely it has been the same overflowing cup which he has presented to his faithful followers throughout this Age. It represents sorrows unto death. However, prophetically our Lord and his followers are represented as rejoicing in this cup of fellowship in the sufferings of Christ, because of the glorious results. Our Lord said respecting it, "I delight to do thy will, O God." And again, "The cup which my Father hath poured for me, shall I not drink it?"
In Psalm 116:13 this cup of death is represented as a cup of salvation, because only thereby can our salvation and the world's be attained. Both Christ and his followers have rejoiced in their tribulations, not counting their lives dear unto them, that they might win the great prize. Notice the context: "I will take the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord (for needed aid.) I will pay my vows unto the Lord...precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints." The Vow of Christ and his members is faithfulness unto death—the drinking of the cup. The promised reward is the crown of glory in the Kingdom. This is represented as another cup of the future. Only those who join with the Master in drinking his "Cup of the New Testament" or New Covenant will share with him by participation in the cup of joy and glory, which the Father will pour for the faithful at the end of this Age—at the close of this antitypical Day of Atonement and its sacrifices.
"You have called attention to the fact that the passover lamb spared only the firstborn of the Israelites and that the antitypical meaning of this would be that our Lord Jesus as the Lamb of God which 'taketh away the sin of the world' would spare or pass over only the Church of the firstborn ones in this Gospel Age, the antitype of the passover night. This being true, how shall we understand John's statement that the Lamb of God taketh away the sins of the world?"
Our answer is that only the Church of the firstborn, the household of faith, the consecrated, are spared or passed over through Divine mercy, through the merit of Christ's sacrifice, during this Gospel Age. Nevertheless the divine plan does not end with the deliverance of "the Church of the firstborn whose names are written in heaven" and who shall share with Christ in "his resurrection"—the first, or chief resurrection. The appropriation of the merit of Christ first to the Church is merely an incidental feature of the Divine Plan. Soon the Church shall have shared by the [R4556 : page 53] privilege now granted to believers of becoming dead with Christ to the earthly interests and alive as New Creatures by the first resurrection. Then the merit of the blood of Christ, the slain Lamb, will be applied to the world of mankind to legally "take away the sin of the world." When applied it will immediately satisfy Justice on the world's behalf and turn over the world to the Redeemer for restitution blessings. Then the Lamb of God and the Church, "the Bride, the Lamb's wife," will prosecute the work of actually taking away the sin of the world during the Millennium.